Religion vs Jesus (video)
I don’t pretend to have all the answers to Christianity, but I often find church a distraction, Christians a frustration, and – more importantly – antithetical to many of Jesus’ statements. This video makes that point fairly admirably.
Also, from a purely aesthetic perspective, there is some beautiful flow and rhyme in this, with great visuals, and a subtle but supportive typographical underlay. If that’s your sort of thing…
All the WordPress haikus – moved!
I’ve been keeping track of the WordPress haikus for the last few years. So far I’ve got one for 15 releases!
Rather than updating this post every time I update them, I’ve moved it to the Projects section of this site, so you can check it there for infrequent updates.
Keep waiting for that haiku interview, but until then, keep reading All the WordPress Haikus…
Five places to waste your time
The internet is a wonderful invention, but it can be used for good or evil. In the midst of trying to get stuff done, I’m constantly distracted by other things to click on, to read, to learn about.
“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”
~J. R. R. Tolkien
Twitter is my absolute No 1 stop for distraction, but its such an amazing/terrible invention that I’ll give it a post all its own at some another time. For now (and as a further piece of procrastination) here is a list of five of my favourite sites for wasting my time:
Lifehacker is a fantastic place to read interesting articles about becoming more productive. It’s hacking your life: literally trying to reset how we function, and find more efficient ways of living life. Of course, if you mostly just read Lifehacker when you should be working, its going to be, rather
depressingly ironically, totally counterproductive.
Slashdot was named specifically to be annoying to pronounce. Try saying ” HTTP colon slash slash WWW dot SLASH DOT dot ORG” – fun, eh? That’s pretty geeky, and a perfect introduction to the site, which gives news about tech, web and geekdom, with a slant towards open source. I find it a great place to fantasise about having the tech chops to be a true sysadmin – even if I suspect I’ll never get further than running my own home server. The comments are also always detailed, informative and entertaining.
Favourite bits: Ask Slashdot - users post their own technical challenges for community help, Slashdot Polls – see large scale responses to tech questions that relate to life. Also, check out the Quotes right at the bottom of each page.
A lot more polished than Slashdot, Engadget is my place to learn about all the exciting new shiny gadgets that are coming to the world over the next few months. Despite the fact I never buy any of them, and generally have no desire to own one, I still read in depth reviews of new phones, laptops and gizmos frequently, when I could be better spending my time.
Favourite bits: Generally just enjoying reading the latest articles, but the Reviews are my favourite, regardless of the item. Engadget is also my preferred source of Liveblog when there’s a new Apple/Google/Palm/etc launch event.
BBC News & Timeslive
As a little bit of a news addict, I tend to visit two main sites: BBC News for my UK hit, and Timeslive for South African snippets. The BBC are blatantly the best news organisation in the world, and their site is a testament to that – its currently the fifth most visited site in the UK. Whilst less well written, I enjoy visiting the SA Times website to get an inside flavour of how things are going in South Africa: since we are planning to move there, its good to know when a government department can’t account for £100 million of its budget.
Favourite bits: The front page of each is my main port of call, but I also rather enjoy the BBC’s Science & Environment section, and Times Live coverage of SA Politics. When I want to feel especially low, BBC Sport are always there for me with the latest Orient scores…
Of all the sites mentioned here, Reddit is the only one I’m slightly ashamed of. The self styled “front page of the internet”, it is a community, much like Slashdot, where articles and links are upvoted to gain precedence on the site. However, it has a much more puerile mix of images, links and comments. I’m a recent convert from Digg to Reddit, and whilst I spend less time on reddit than on the others above, it’s definitely a good destination if you urgently need to put off doing something. I refuse to register an account or I’ll never get anything done again!
Favourite bits: The never ending stream of irrelevance that is the front page, but also AskReddit, where people present their real world problems and are *generally* supported, encouraged and helped, with a sprinkling of sarcasm and trolling.
So, there we go. I hope this list helps you to not achieve something in your life quite soon. Just reading this post has probably been a good start!
New page: MarketPress Grid Plugin
I‘ve been hanging out over at the WPMU-DEV forums quite a lot over the last few months, and I decided to contribute to the community with an update of one of the plugins for MarketPress.
MarketPress is a pretty good, simple e-commerce plugin for WordPress, but it lacks a grid layout option. This plugin adds that feature.
Cool Bananas 24Seven Review
The first step towards this happened last month, when Luke from gearzap.com contacted me, asking if I would like to review a bag. Excitedly, I emailed back, politely enquiring if they fancied paying me by purchasing a rollercoaster, or log flume. They declined, but I still got a bag – the Cool Bananas 24Seven…
I’ll be honest, I was a bit hesitant choosing a bag like this. Compact, leather styling, shoulder strap: its a man bag. If you disagree with that statement, it’s probably because you own a similar looking bag and are in denial. That said, it does look pretty good, slung over one shoulder, as I casually stroll along the road, a Starbucks coffee in one hand, an iPhone in the other… kill me.
Joking aside, it’s a fairly sexy looking bag, from the material covering the majority of it to the faux leather. Internally as well, the 24Seven all seems very nicely put together, with nice chunky zips and little pockets for pens and the like. Taking stuff out, and putting things in, you know you are using an attractive piece of kit.
After a month of taking the bag around with me, I still don’t love it. A large part of that comes from my general preference for rucksacks over shoulder bags: when walking along rucksacks are anchored to your back with no freedom to put you off your stride - shoulder bags tend to bounce off one’s back occasionally, slightly jarring you. Sadly, the Cool Bananas bag does this more than most, likely due to the portrait placement of the laptop, making the straps closer together and thus even less anchored. Of the many bags I own, this would be my least favourite for any protracted period of walking.
The strap is also much too thin. Think cotton tshirt thin. This means the strap gets twisted really easily (see photo on right): as a cool metrosexual guy, I like to grab my bag and chuck it over my shoulder before heading to the indie bookstore: I don’t wanna be left behind by my friends as I try to rearrange the shoulder pad to face the right direction.
My normal modus operandi is a rucksack, with room for my laptop, charger, mouse, jumper, bottle of water, deoderant, magazine, sketch pad, headphones, spare ethernet cable, kitchen sink… Downsizing to a smaller beast meant I had to choose just the bare essentials. It is refreshingly focussed knowing “I only have stuff with me that I need”.
Whilst not having unnecessary items with you does make bags lighter, it does come with one important issue: you no longer have necessary items with you. I found myself limited to the point that I could just about fit my laptop, charger, mouse, sketchbook and wallet inside. And then it was overfull, making the lovely Cool Bananas logo a bit mishapen (see photo on right). And there is no more room. Want to pack a sandwich for lunch? Either eat it at breakfast, or carry it seperately. And I really don’t want to carry it seperately: that’s why I have a bag!
The 24Seven feels very heavy. I found it harder work for my spine than other shoulder bags, and it seemed heavier than my rucksack, even though it had about 1/3 of the contents. Due to it continually bouncing on your back, you also end up feeling a little bruised and uncomfortable.
Build quality disappointed me: after just a few uses the already negligible shoulder strap began to fray a little, reducing it to almost imperceptible (see photo on right). Unplanned fraying looks bad, which is very important to us trendy Apple store frequenting chaps: if I wanted to look bad, I could just buy old jeans, rather than these £100 distressed Levis that bring out the colour of my eyes.
I did enjoy trialling the 24Seven, but its unlikely to last me the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week that it promises - the strap would drive me mental, and I would feel irritated everytime I had to walk somewhere with it. There would also be no spare room for a toothbrush. Or a sleeping bag. Or a bed.
However, using it less often, I can see a real place for this bag. For taking a laptop to a coffee shop, or just chucking your wallet and magazine in it, I think it could be great. And frankly, just having it sitting on a chair unused will make all your NME reading friends respect you at least 15% more.
Review sponsored by GearZap.com
Gearzap kindly gave me this bag for review. Visit their site to check out their other laptop cases, rucksacks and bags.
Five things I hate about cycling: Cars
Its taken a month, but I have finally completed my exhaustive analysis of everything wrong with cycling. After hills, sweating, roads and punctures, all that remains is my very least favourite thing about cycling: Cars.
Risk is an interesting phenomenom in our society. On the one hand, environmental health can shut you down if you make a sandwich without washing lettuce; on the other, there’s no legal barrier to sitting on a flimsy metal frame with half inch wheels, doing 30 mph on uneven tarmac as lorries overtake you at 70, with a feeble layer of polystyrene as your sole protection.
When doing 13 mph down my road, I’m not too worried about lorries, but I am very concerned about the lady in the Corsa who hasn’t looked in her wingmirror, and is about to open her door. Or the chap who overtook me on a high street, then turned left, causing me to crash into the side of his car. And I say I’m not too worried about lorries, but I don’t love it when they force you off the road into a ditch and you lose a front tooth.
The root of the problem is that cars are large, fast vehicles with limited visibility, often driven by impatient people. As a cyclist, its easy to despise the more obnoxious drivers, and paint them all with the same brush. Certainly, the operator of the car that hooted me last month whilst I was traversing a free flowing, highly dangerous roundabout fully deserves a slap.
However, we do need a little perspective; after all, many of us cyclists are drivers at other times, and all of us know how easy it is to forget to look in the mirrors before turning left, how easy it is to miss the cyclist hidden behind a truck, or in line with the sun.
Last week I pulled out at a cross roads after very carefully trying to assess if there was a bike coming down the hill. Despite my best efforts, there was a cyclist, who I very nearly brained. Whilst his not wearing a helmet implies there was little brain to risk, the point remains: cyclists are vulnerable, and, ultimately, feeling vulnerable is not the same as having fun.
I actually tried to come up with a realistic solution to the problem here.
The biggest issue is that not only are bikes very vulnerable, they are also vastly in the minority. Multiple studies show that the more people there are walking and cycling, the safer it becomes. In Amsterdam, you are twice as likely to be murdered as killed cycling. Overall, in Denmark and Holland, countries with much higher rates of cycling, you are three times less likely to die when riding.
So, the best way to make the roads less dangerous, less terrifying and thus less offputting to cyclists is to get more of us out there. Which probably means I should write a 5 things I love about cycling series…
Five things I hate about cycling: Punctures
I don’t like roads, I don’t like hills, and I need a shower just getting my bike out of the house. Coming in at number 2 on the list of things I hate about cycling: Punctures.
Punctures are the intermittent pain that haunts cycling, especially those of us with road bikes (and thus skinny tyres). They may strike sporadically, or you may go through periods where they appear to be an incessant companion; either way, one constant remains: to cycle is to puncture.
The botheration is threefold: time, expense and frustration.
I have to be at work at 8am. I usually leave around 6:15, arriving at work around 7:20, have a shower, eat some food, and I have maybe 5 minutes to spare. If I get a puncture, I need to squeeze an extra 20 minutes into that. That’s assuming that I have actually brought my repair kit, unlike last time…
Whilst inner tubes aren’t terribly expensive, I find spending money on them very painful. I think its knowing that I am paying money for a task that I find very unpleasant. If you’ve ever changed a tyre on a road bike, you’ll know its a dirty, fiddly, finger trapping exercise, perfectly designed to cause annoyance. No one ever enjoys paying their dentist, and I don’t like buying inner tubes.
All this leads to a great deal of frustration. On more than one occasion I have felt like smashing up my bike and buying a Ferrari. The main thing stopping me is doing this is a desire to be healthy, and a lack of a spare £120,000. However, no such barrier prevents me from being grumpy and outspoken about my hatred of all things rubber for several days after a puncture.
This one took some thought. Solid rubber tyres don’t go flat, but they also require physiotherapy at the end of every short, bumpy journey. The key will be to reduce the frequency and irritation of punctures.
For frequency, the government simply needs to implement my plans to provide brand new glass-like roads across the nation. As a result, I will enjoy biking more, and get significantly less punctures into the bargain.
For irritation, I propose that all cyclists are followed by a support vehicle à la Tour de France, promptly swapping bikes for you at the first sign of trouble.. Whilst this will cause an increase in emissions, I will fund the carbon offsetting out of the savings I make on new inners. The cars themselves can be paid for out of penalty taxes on towns with too many hills. Sorted.